It may be surprising to some, but teachers, or all of those with a teaching certificate in the state, are 3 points more likely to be a Republican than all other voters, according to independent analysis conducted by SoonerPoll, Oklahoma’s only independent non-partisan polling firm.
Through an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, a list of more than 94,000 Oklahomans with a teaching certificate was obtained from the State Department of Education. Those individuals were then matched to SoonerPoll’s internal database of voters which includes a recent list of registered voters from the State Election Board. The computer, as well as computer operators using visual judgement, were able to match 58,843 teachers to a voter record using an exact matching process of first and last names in the same zip code.
“Education is always a major issue,” said Bill Shapard, founder of SoonerPoll and the senior researcher on the project. “But this year, teachers seem to be more engaged in the political process considering the state budget cuts to education, and we decided to take a closer look at teachers in the state and their political engagement.”
According to the independent analysis, teachers are more likely to be registered earlier and for a longer period of time, which is significant considering teachers are more of working ages, 35 to 64, than the voter population overall.
When it comes to voting propensity, teachers are more likely to vote in “stakeholder” local elections, or those involving city or school board elections than the overall by 7 points, and more likely to vote in primary elections than the average voter by 8 points.
SoonerPoll uses a sliding scale of voting propensity from rare voters, or those who have not established in pattern in voting behavior, and then general election voters, or those who usually only vote in November elections with the governor or president on the ballot. Higher levels are primary voters, then “stakeholder” voters, and lastly “super” voters, or those who make all or nearly every election.
Voters overall were roughly 1.5 times more likely than teachers to have not voted at least once since registering, further evidence of teachers’ higher levels of civic engagement.
While teachers were more likely to be registered Republican than voters overall, they were also equally more likely to be registered Democrat than overall, and the greatest difference could be found in lower Independent registration. Other analysis has shown that Independents are less politically active than either Republicans or Democrats; another indication that teachers are more politically engaged, albeit Republican or Democrat, than the overall voter population.
“While the proportion of Republicans to Democrats is similar among both teachers and voters overall, it indicates to me that teachers are really just like most Oklahomans — just more politically active,” said Shapard. “But given the ideological and lobbying views of their associations and lobbyists, you probably wouldn’t first think that most teachers in Oklahoma would be Republicans.”
Shapard went on to note that this year has also seen an increase in the number of teachers running for political office and the majority of those candidates are Democrats.
“This may be a result of Republicans being in the majority throughout state government and Democrat teachers are the most unhappy and want to see greater change.”
Analysis by the Enid News found two percent of teachers in 2014 changed their registration to Republican in order to vote in the Republican primary. The widely circulated theory at the time was that teachers were changing to Republican registration simply to vote against the state superintendent at the time, Janet Barresi. This analysis did not baseline party registration for Republicans and nothing in the data or analysis presented in this report could confirm or deny if teachers remained or changed back to their former party affiliation.
“I truly believe teachers are just like the rest of us,” said Shapard. “They reflect the same values, opinions and beliefs as the rest of the state’s voters overall and that’s why we see more teachers registered Republican than Democrat in Oklahoma.”